Cragside has tallest tree in the UK

The National Trust team working to maintain Britain's tallest Scots Pine - one of a vast number of significant trees at Cragside
The National Trust team working to maintain Britain's tallest Scots Pine - one of a vast number of significant trees at Cragside

A 140 year old Scots pine growing at the National Trust’s Cragside in Northumberland has been officially declared the tallest in the UK.

At just over 131ft the towering conifer has been confirmed as the largest of its kind by officials from the Tree Register, the organisation which since 1988 has kept a tally of Britain and Ireland’s notable and ancient specimens.

Its stature isn’t the only milestone the tree has broken, however. The Scots pine can lay claim to being the 200,000th tree to have been recorded on the register.

Cragside on the outskirts of Rothbury is just one of many National Trust places across the North East boasting remarkable and unusual trees which the public are being urged to get out and see for themselves while they are at their best this June.

Among other notable examples are Seaton Delaval Hall’s 300 year old weeping ash, an impressive horse chestnut planted by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw at Wallington, and trees at Staward Gorge where Italian prisoners of war carved their identification numbers in the 1939-1945 conflict.

Cragside’s Scots pine - which is the same height as 10 double-decker buses stacked one on top of the other - is a remarkable survivor. The species is more commonly grown as a commercial crop with felling taking place from around 50 years of age.

But this was one of an astonishing seven million trees and shrubs planted in the latter half of the 19th century by the first Lord and Lady Armstrong, who together transformed a bare hillside into a stunning 1,000 acre country estate with a pioneering hydro-electrically powered mansion.

This woodland now forms the backbone of the property’s grade I listed garden with its native and exotic conifers, including the eye-catching bluey-green Scots pine, dark green yews, Douglas firs and Wellingtonias.

Cragside’s newest arboreal star stands surrounded by Douglas firs on the hillside behind the main car park just 120m (400ft) from the Armstrongs’ mock Tudor house.

The National Trust decided to call in specialist arboriculturists to help measure the Scots pine’s dizzying height after people commented on what a wonderful example it was.

Needless to say, staff are delighted to know Cragside is now home to the tallest native conifer in the UK.

Chris Clues, Cragside’s tree and woodland manager, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled if a little surprised to have the UK’s tallest Scots pine. You might imagine that Scotland would lay claim to that record. But a lot of these trees are grown commercially and felled at quite a young age.

“Since being planted in the 1870s our Scots pines have thankfully been left alone and are now part of the landscape. This particular tree is also surrounded by Douglas firs which have helped protect it from high winds and other harsh weather.”

Chris now hopes to identify more champion trees at Cragside. He has his eye on a Douglas fir in the estate’s pinetum that a decade ago was measured at 196ft.

“I know one or two Douglas firs that were the tallest have been damaged over the past few winters. We are hopeful ours could be another record breaker,” he said.

Chris regularly climbs the trees at Cragside to assess them for damage and has scaled the record breaking Scots pine. “It’s a very tall but challenging and rewarding tree to climb. It’s a truly breath-taking tree set in a wonderful location and we are very proud to have it here at Cragside.”